Court orders Sheikh Al-Thani out of Malaga CF and puts administrator in charge

File photo of Sheikh Al-Thani, right, with his sons at La Rosaleda stadium.
File photo of Sheikh Al-Thani, right, with his sons at La Rosaleda stadium. / SUR
  • A judge has sided with the minority shareholders after searches at La Rosaleda brought financial irregularities, including potential money laundering, to light

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani’s grip on Malaga CF was loosened significantly on Thursday after a judge ruled to temporarily remove the president and majority shareholder and his three sons from the management of the club and place it under the control of a judicial administrator.

That administrator will be José María Muñoz, whose candidature was unanimously approved. It is likely that he will take control of the club on Friday. Muñoz will control the day-to-day running of the club but will have to run any major decisions by the judge first.

At the initial hearing on Tuesday morning in the case brought by the minority shareholders’ association (APA), which accuses the Qatari sheikh of improper management of the club and misappropriation of funds, the public prosecution requested the club be put in the hands of judicial administration for six months.

They also demanded a 5.4-million-euro deposit from the Al-Thani family which, if not paid, can be recouped through the seizure of assets they have in Spain.

These requests were later accepted by judge María Ángeles Ruiz González on Thursday.

The Al-Thanis, however, can still appeal this decision, either to the same court which passed the judgement or to the provincial court. Given the time-sensitive nature of the case, however, they only have five days to launch their appeal.

Potential money laundering

It is believed that the search carried out on the club’s offices at La Rosaleda stadium on 22 January proved key in the judge’s decision with the information gathered from the seized computers and documents seemingly confirming the accusations, while also bringing to light a possible case of money laundering.

These alleged crimes must now be investigated.

Al-Thanis absent

Tuesday’s initial hearing went as planned with parties putting forward reasons in favour and against an administration order.

The sheikh, plus his three sons Nasser, Rakan and Nayef (also on the board of directors), though called to make declarations, as expected didn’t show up.

The club’s general director and advisor to the sheikh, Richard Shaheen, accompanied by lawyer Jesús Santos and another lawyer from the Baker McKenzie office, Juan Pedro Cortés, did attend, however.

“The request is disproportionate, unnecessary and premature, considering the preliminary state of the investigation,” they wrote in an official statement following the hearing.

In response to the ruling, the APA’s lawyer, Francisco Valverde, said:“This was a real David versus Goliath battle and in the end sanity has prevailed.”

He added: “It doesn’t all end here; the crimes of which they are accused will have to be investigated.”